Beggars and Thieves
I wrote a comment the other day in response to some questions about Arianna. It completely baffled Byron York and the wingnuts, which I found both telling and amusing. This was what I said:
[Arianna and I] have the opposite response to celebrities – I don’t enjoy being around them, I don’t cultivate them as friends and I go out of my way to never mention them but I understand why she does. She’s managed to use her celebrity contacts to create a very successful site that has become important in the political discourse. When Fitzgerald was trying to keep Judy Miller in the clink he cited Prof. Geoffrey Stone of the ACLU writing on the Huffington Post. I don’t know that a lot of people remember that but it was rather landmark. Do people go to the HuffPo because Geoffrey Stone is there? No, they draw big traffic because John Cusack and Alec Baldwin and Harry Shearer are there. But Arianna uses that to provide a platform for important thinkers like Geoffrey Stone who in turn have the opportunity to have greater influence and a bigger audience than they otherwise would.
We do something a bit similar. Atrios says Plame is like porn and it is. We get our big traffic from it, that’s what people love to read about. We use that big traffic to do our series on racism and war profiteering and labor that otherwise probably wouldn’t get much traffic at all. I don’t care if those posts get 10 comments, we’ll keep doing them and they can (and have) begun to impact the consciousness of the blogosphere. I think that’s the responsible thing to do.
I think there’s value in what Arianna does, and it’s not just celebrity chasing. When you talk with her it just isn’t something she mentions, she’s much more preoccupied with stopping the war any way she can. I’ve never had a conversation with her about movie stars, I’ve had plenty about how to influence politicians to get us out of Iraq. She’s a very savvy marketer in being able to use her gifts to leverage political influence and I respect her tremendously.
Now to be fair to Atrios I think he said that about the Plame case when it was a piece of unsubstantiated speculation (something along the lines of "Hadley has flipped," but don’t quote me) but my larger point remains. People love this story. I love this story. I would love to do nothing but sit around all day, read through documents and piece things together like a giant puzzle. I think our enthusiasm for the story is genuine and infectious and that’s been one of the reasons for the popularity of the site.
But the notion that someone would build a site that people wanted to visit seems utterly alien to York:
Related to my piece today about the Plameologists and their fixation on the CIA leak case, I just saw a brief posting by firedoglake founder Jane Hamsher that sheds some light on that site’s emphasis on the Plame matter. Defending Arianna Huffington against accusations that she places too much emphasis on celebrities, Hamsher writes that the Huffington Post and firedoglake use similar strategies to attract readers.
It’s a "fixation" we use to "attract readers." Yes, it’s called capitalism. Free enterprise. The opposite of wingnut welfare. It’s what happens when you create a good product and people show up so advertisers want to pay you so you can keep the lights on. But Byron isn’t the only one at the NRO unfamiliar with the concept.
Says Rich Lowrey, hat in hand:
Because—let me be frank here—we lose money. NRO is a loss leader. And here’s what’s unfortunate—the print magazine is a loss leader too. We are surrounded by loss leaders. If we ever have ideas to further our mission, they are guaranteed to be loss leaders. If your business needs advice on how to develop a loss leader, come to us. We have it down. I assure you we can help you start to lose money almost immediately. It’s our specialty. We have been doing it for 50 years and hope to keep doing it for many more.
That last bit isn’t quite right. We’d prefer not to lose money. But there is something to the opinion journalism business that makes it inherently unprofitable.
Remember that the next time they want to lecture you on their "fiscal conservatism." They’re privileged, white upper middle-class twits who want the right to shovel shit nobody wants to read and then be paid for it quite handsomely. They’re unwilling to compete in the free market. Always asking for a handout, expecting someone to take care of them.
The NRO quite proudly represents the party with their hands on the purse strings. No wonder the country is swimming in red ink.